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Fukushima’s record decreasing rate of population causing gender gap, census shows, asahi, 12/25/15

FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima Prefecture’s population has declined by 5.7 percent since 2010, its largest recorded drop and the cause of a widening gender gap in some areas, according to national census figures announced on Dec. 25.

The population drop is mainly due to ongoing evacuations following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to the preliminary figures released by the prefectural government.

The prefecture lost 39,715 men and 75,743 women, a decrease of 4 percent and 7.3 percent from 2010, respectively. The difference is thought to have been caused partly by the majority male presence in reconstruction efforts.

A prefectural government official said the diminishing population is “attributable to a considerable number of people who have evacuated to places outside Fukushima Prefecture.”

On the gap between the male and female populations in some municipalities, the official said, “I assume that most of the workers who relocate themselves to these municipalities for the purpose of carrying out work related to nuclear power plants and reconstruction efforts are male, but many of the evacuees are female.”

The national census figures are the first released by the prefectural government since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Fukushima prefecture’s population as of Oct. 1 stood at 1,913,606, down 115,458, or 5.7 percent, from the last census in 2010.

Among the six towns and villages where the entire population has left under evacuation orders, four towns recorded zero inhabitants: Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the nuclear plant, and nearby Tomioka and Namie.

The village of Katsurao had 18 people who have returned to their homes after being evacuated. They are recorded as temporary residents, but the central government is working to make their resettlement permanent. Katsurao’s evacuation order is scheduled to be lifted next spring.

Naraha, where an evacuation order was lifted on Sept. 5, also experienced a massive decrease in its population, with 976 people living in the area, down 6,724 people, or 87.3 percent, from 2010. The figures illustrate the fact that few evacuees have opted to return home.

The town of Hirono, where a large portion of the population is involved in nuclear reactor decommissioning work, tallied a male population of 2,746, up 2.3 percent from 2010. The female population, on the other hand, was about half that figure at 1,577, down 42.3 percent.

The population figures are based on the number of people living in the prefecture as of Oct. 1, irrespective of whether they are registered as local citizens.

In areas where entry is restricted due to high levels of radiation from the nuclear accident, municipal employees and police officers were deployed to survey the population for the census.

Loneliness grows as 3/11 evacuees vacate temporary housing, japan times, 12/20/2015

Even though the tens of thousands of evacuees from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster are still living in temporary housing, many others have moved on, making virtual ghost towns out of once busy communities.

As of the end of November, 19,373 people were still in 16,403 temporary housing units in Fukushima, down from the peak of 33,016 people in July 2012. The disaster rescue law stipulates that residents can live in temporary housing for up to two years, but the prefecture extended that to March 2017.

But as more people move into new public housing or elsewhere, some 38 percent of the temporary housing units in Fukushima were vacant as of the end of November, up from 17 percent at the same time in 2013.

“It’s lonely to celebrate the new year in a temporary housing community when residents move out one by one,” said Masanori Takeuchi, 65, as he gazed intently at unlit units. Takeuchi heads a neighborhood council at a temporary housing community in Aizuwakamatsu.

When he moved in four years and five months ago, almost all 83 units were full. But now there are only about 40 people in 19 units, with five families planning to move in the spring.

As the vacancies grow, fewer people show up when Takeuchi and others hold barbecue parties and other events. When university volunteers throw get-togethers for the community, there are times when there are more staffers than residents.

“Worries that their neighbors will leave them could trigger mental illness,” said an official with a prefecture-affiliated social welfare association.

According to the Cabinet Office, 11 people committed suicide in Fukushima between January and July this year, apparently due to the events of 3/11. Of those, two were residents of temporary housing.

The government of Fukushima is aware of the situation and has been struggling to hire enough staff to monitor their mental health and well-being. Fukushima wanted to hire 400 people for the job this fiscal year, but had only managed to fill 274 of the slots as of Dec. 1. One of the reasons is the lack of job security: The positions are offered on a one-year contract because the program is funded by central government subsidies given out each fiscal year.

“We have asked the government to revise the (subsidy program) but it’s going to be difficult,” said an official in Fukushima.

The temporary nature of the housing units is also a headache.

So far, piling erosion has been observed at 214 of the structures and termite infestations have been found in 128. Of those, 121 had both.

Normally, the piling that supports the foundation of a house is made of steel or concrete. But because temporary housing units are built to last for approximately two years, the piling is made of wood to shorten construction time and make them easier to disassemble.

The prefecture is planning to push the schedule forward for piling work by the end of March, but has yet to inform the residents of the details, residents say.

In addition, prefectural inspections have found 633 units in need of repairs, such as clogged roof gutters and other issues. Fukushima plans to fix the problems by the end of the month, but the prefecture is plagued by many other requests from residents, keeping them very busy.

“Until I can move to public housing, this is the only place for me to live,” said a woman in her 60s living in a temporary housing unit in Iwaki where a termite infestation was found. “I want it fixed right away.”

This section appears every third Monday and features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Dec. 11.

Farm, fishing cooperatives in disaster-hit Tohoku to repay ¥50 billion bailout funds in full, japan times, 12/21/2015

from jiji.

Eight agricultural cooperatives in the three Tohoku prefectures that were hit hardest by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami now plan to repay in full ¥50 billion in bailout funds injected by the government and Norinchukin Bank after the disaster, informed sources said Saturday.

The cooperatives in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures will be able to start the repayment next month thanks to progress in their management reconstruction 4½ years on, the sources said.

Four months after the disaster, the government created a legal framework to enable struggling agricultural and fishery cooperatives in afflicted areas to receive capital injections under the preferred equity investment method without clarifying their management responsibilities and setting earnings targets.

In February-March 2012, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Financial Services Agency approved fund injection requests from the most heavily damaged cooperatives while asking them to draw up management plans for four years through fiscal 2015.

If the farm organizations decided to remain recipients of funds from the government and Norinchukin, the central bank for agricultural cooperatives, they should have presented new management plans, the sources pointed out.



Tomioka town aims to open municipal clinic next October, fukushima minpo, 12/8/2015

The town of Tomioka, wholly evacuated due to the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, is poised to open a municipal clinic in the fall of 2016 ahead of the start of evacuees’ returning home. An outline of the planned clinic to be set up in the Kobama district envisions the initial practice of internal medicine with a staff of nine people, including a physician, starting in October that year. The plan was revealed by the town office at a meeting of all municipal assembly members on Dec. 7.

The clinic will be administered by Satoshi Imamura, a physician who operated Imamura Hospital in the town until the disaster. Imamura, who currently lives in Kanagawa Prefecture as an evacuee, will double as a physician at the new clinic. The planned medical facility will also be staffed by three nurses, a radiology therapist, a pharmacist, an office clerk, a medical accountant and a janitor.

The town is seeking to launch the return of evacuees as early as April 2017. During fiscal 2016 beginning next April, the clinic is expected to open for three days a week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday – when many evacuees visit their homes on a temporary basis. The town plans to operate the clinic for five weekdays in and after April 2017. It will consider expanding the clinic to include surgery and other departments of diagnosis and treatment in the future.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

Over 60% of residents in Tamura city’s Miyakoji area back to pre-quake homes, fukushima minpo, 12/5/2015

A central government survey has found that 62.6% of evacuees from the Miyakoji district of Tamura city, Fukushima Prefecture, now live in the homes they had at the time of the 2011 earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster following the lifting of an evacuation order in April 2014. The ratio was 22.8 percentage points above that in the previous survey taken in October last year, according to the Reconstruction Agency study released on Dec. 4. The latest survey also covered the Yamakiya district of Kawamata town.

The Miyakoji district was the first area to have the evacuation order lifted in the 20-kilometer-radius exclusion zone set up around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. immediately after the disaster. The survey showed 24.2% of respondents now live in quarters other than their pre-disaster homes, down 11.3 points, and 9.1% replied they are plying between temporary homes and their old residences, down 8.1 points.

Of the Miyakoji residents not residing in their old homes, 33.3% said they want to live in the district again and 18.2% desired to live in other districts in Tamura. The combined total of both categories exceeded 50%. These findings showed a steady trend of former residents returning to the city following progress in radioactive cleanup operations, a Reconstruction Agency official said.

The other survey covering former residents in the Yamakiya district found 44.2% of respondents want to return to their old homes, down 1.3 points from the previous survey conducted in December 2014. It also showed 16.4% were undecided as to lasting returns, down 6.8 points, and 24.9% said they are determined never to return, up 2.3 points.

(Translated by Kyodo News)


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